Ninety-three-year-old Michael Crecco didn’t bring his cell phone with him when he left his apartment one night in November to take his dog, Romeo, for a quick walk.
So when the elevator got stuck between the third and fourth floors and wouldn’t budge, Crecco had to use the emergency phone.
It kept cutting out, he said.
After many tries, he got through to someone, Crecco said. By then, Romeo, who at 14 is about Crecco’s age in dog years, knew something was wrong.
“He was barking and going crazy,” Crecco said.
To make things worse, the person who answered the emergency phone did not speak English well, Crecco said.
“I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me,” Crecco said. “He kept saying he would call police. I said, ‘No, no. Not police. The fire department.’ The phone kept dying.
Finally, he said, the fire department arrived.
“They wanted to make sure I was OK. When they opened the door, the first thing they did was take the dog. They were very nice,” Crecco said. “There was a waist-high difference between the elevator and the floor, so two of the firefighters lifted me up by my arms to get me out.”
Crecco figures he was in the elevator an hour and a half.
His gratitude toward the firefighters turned to anger toward the property manager for his building, TGM Anchor Point on Southfield Avenue, advertised on its website as a luxurious complex with a boardwalk along Stamford Harbor and a marina that has deep-water boat slips for leasing.
Monthly rents at Anchor Point range from $2,165 to $5,315, according to the website. Property records show Anchor Point, built in 2001, includes two buildings, both four stories high, with a total of about 320 apartments.
Each building has three elevators.
They should work, Crecco said.
“We pay good rent and don’t get a basic service like working elevators,” said Crecco, a retired photographers agent. “I wanted to do something so this doesn’t keep happening.”
To document his Nov. 28 incident, he obtained a copy of the fire marshal’s report. It says Truck 2 and Rescue 1 removed an occupant and his dog from an elevator after firefighters went to the basement to shut off the power. The firefighters used an elevator key to free the occupants, the report states.
Crecco said he then figured he should call the city building department. He did so three times, he said.
“No one returned my calls,” Crecco said.
Anchor Point property management has not been responsive to repeated reports about broken elevators, so he invited fellow tenants to meet before making another complaint, Crecco said.
They gave him an earful.
One said a neighbor with a disabled daughter had to move out because the elevators were broken so frequently.
A woman said elevators sometimes slam down at their destination so hard that dust falls and the hatch for the emergency phone pops open. The elevator stops a few inches above or below the lobby floor, creating a trip hazard as you step out, she said.
When that happens, and the elevator starts to make noises, “you know it’s about to break,” a man said.
The tenants did not want their names published because, they said, management will retaliate by raising rent or refusing to renew a lease.
Crecco said he’s not afraid to be identified because it’s difficult to be 93 years old and live in a building where you can’t count on the elevators.
“I don’t want people to have power over me and make me feel helpless,” he said.
He was dismayed at what some of his neighbors shared. A woman who had to be rescued from an elevator said that when she picked up the emergency phone the person asked her not to call the fire department because firefighters “break the elevator.”
Another woman said she heard someone trapped in an elevator “yelling and banging” one morning so she called building management, and a maintenance worker got the person out.
That’s not a good idea, said Paul Anderson, president of Local 786, the Stamford firefighters union.
“We follow a multitude of safety steps. We shut the power off, we make sure the elevator car is secure, we’re prepared to handle a medical issue,” Anderson said. “When the maintenance guy lets someone out of the elevator, they don’t do that, and people can get killed.”
Jesse Imse, senior advisor to the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services, which includes the Bureau of Elevators, said that an emergency response is not required by the state.
“The elevator safety code, as established by statute, does not require the fire department to be called,” Imse said.
But Lauren Meyer, special assistant to Mayor Caroline Simmons, said that’s what people should do.
“We do not recommend the building maintenance person rescue anybody; instead, the fire department should be called so that all proper protocols and procedures are followed,” Meyer said.
And firefighters don’t break elevators, she said.
“During a rescue, firefighters put the elevator out of service,” Meyer said. “Following this, the elevator must be checked by an elevator mechanic prior to it getting back in service.”
Tenants in Stamford have been reporting elevator malfunctions for months. Fire department records report 389 elevator rescues in the city in the last two years – that’s about one every other day.
The number includes five fire department rescues at Anchor Point.
Daniel Ligeiro, property manager for Anchor Point, did not return a voice mail or email seeking comment Monday.
Anchor Point residents said repair crews have told them that elevators need costly work, so it doesn’t get done. Repairmen also told them they sometimes don’t get called on weekends or holidays because they would have to be paid time-and-a-half or double-time, residents said.
State Rep. David Michel of Stamford said he requested a report from the state Department of Administrative Services after hearing complaints from constituents who live in the apartment high-rises in Harbor Point, a South End redevelopment.
The most concerning incident occurred last July, when a resident of the 22-story Allure building was reportedly injured after his elevator fell from the seventh floor to the fourth floor. Tab Batts, 60 at the time, hurt his back, neck and head and had to be hospitalized.
Michel said he received the report Monday from Megan Andrews, the legislative liaison for the Department of Administrative Services.
Andrews wrote that, since Sept. 1, the department has completed 229 inspections at 95 buildings in Stamford. The department sent inspectors in response to complaints from residents and, “where faults were found our inspectors relayed our findings to the management company and the elevator maintenance contractor, if known to us.”
State inspectors “remain active in Stamford” and are “holding building owners responsible for the required repairs,” Andrews said.
Michel said he learned that some in the department think that problems with elevators in the Harbor Point area “may be linked to salt air.” Constituents have told him “that there are water leaks in the buildings, including in elevator shafts,” Michel said.
State law mandates that elevators be “thoroughly inspected” at least once every 18 months. The department issues a certificate of operation that must be renewed every two years.
On Monday, three of the six elevators at Anchor Point were out of service, including the one Crecco was trapped in. Two elevators have certificates of operation that expire next year. One elevator has a certificate that expired Nov. 1, 2021.
Residents said they are tired of walking up flights of stairs when they have a hip injury or arms full of groceries.
“People are afraid of the elevators,” a man said.
“Dogs are afraid of the elevators,” a woman said.
“This is supposed to be a luxury building,” their neighbor said. “We didn’t sign up for a walk-up.”
Crecco said people are worried and frustrated.
“We feel like there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “At least not until someone gets hurt.”